A Secret War - Z-Special Unit

Working Title:   "A Secret War - The True Story of Z Special ”


Format:            13 x 35 min Episodes


Special Operations Australia, more commonly known to the public as “Z Special Unit”, was a WWII Special Forces and covert operations organisation operating in the Pacific. Australian, British, New Zealand, Canadian, South African, Indonesian, Timorese and Malay, “Z” Operatives fought a secret, undercover war in hellish conditions against a brutal enemy occupying force in the islands north of Australia. 

 Z Operatives undertook almost one hundred high-risk covert operations against the Japanese and were directly responsible for eliminating literally thousands of enemy troops, but the price was high – more than eighty Z Operatives lost their lives.

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 Operating in parties as small as two men, Z Operatives faced overwhelming odds against a barbaric and increasingly desperate enemy.  Whether it was raising indigenous guerrilla forces, raiding targets of opportunity or performing hair-raising reconnaissance missions in close proximity to enemy forces behind the lines, the men of Z truly embodied the ANZAC spirit. The Z Men kept quiet about their exploits for 50 years and even today, the full story has never been made public.  The full story of Z operations during WWII is one of mateship, tragedy, courage and humour, but is one which has been largely overlooked, misunderstood and even ignored by the history books for these past 75 years.

 This series explores the Z Men, their training and their covert operations into the Japanese-occupied islands to Australia's north.  The stories are told through a wealth of rare archival footage, through interviews with the surviving participants, through re-enacted scenes, through interviews with current Australian Special Forces personnel, authors and historians as well as through wartime letters, maps, official records and photographs. Each of the thirteen episodes is designed to be a standalone piece and while historical and technical accuracy is assured, each episode is written with a bias towards the human drama aspect of the operations described rather than just dry historical facts and figures.


 As can be seen by the individual episode summaries, the first episode details the two most famous and familiar operations undertaken by the organisation, JAYWICK and RIMAU as a hook. The second episode provides an overview of the organisation and its training and technology in order to provide context for the further individual missions which follow. The next two episodes describe two of Z’s early failures, Operations WALNUT and WHITING. This order of events has been chosen because as the viewer will see, during interviews the Z Men themselves can be blasé about the dangers they faced on operations, considering these hazardous missions to be just another day in the office.  The stories of the WALNUT Project, Op COPPER and Op WHITING particularly illustrate just how high the stakes could be for the Z Men.